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    1. #531
      Michael DeathFlame's Avatar
        Michael DeathFlame is offline Grandmaster Wizard

      • Michael DeathFlame's Wizard Stats
        •  Wizard's Name:
        •  Michael DeathFlame and Michael IceFlame, Level 17
        •  Wizard's Level:
        •  57
        •  World:
        •  Celestia
        •  Wizard's School:
        •  Death
        •  Pet's Name:
        •  Rex and Lord Shadow, Lord Shadow being a Wraith and Rex being a Dragon
        •  Pet's Type:
        •  Dragon
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      3

      Re: The Virus Book 3 The Scroll of Death

      Chapter 42: The Finale Part 3: Traitor

      No. I don’t believe it when it happens, even though I see it happen so clearly. See the way my brother’s eyes flash in the light of his attack, see Oran and Lenora defend the blast without another blink to spare. See disappointment on my brother’s face when we’re all still together. Even as the other three move behind me to form a tight circle between the four of us, I don’t take my eyes off him. And in those passing seconds I don’t know what to feel. Anger’s the first thing to flare up in my stomach, but before I even think about something to scream at him that fire burns away. Instead I’m just left with the ash of that anger, an emptiness that fills every last bit of me. “Why?” My voice is croaky, childish. I try to put more force behind it as I yell, “Why?!”

      Valdus doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even look at me. Instead he starts circling the four of us. I’m ready to scream at him again before he starts talking. “The Emperor was never going to lose this war. He’s more powerful than anyone else in the Spiral, and he’ll easily kill anyone who stands in his way. I didn’t want my family to do that. I-”

      “LIAR!” Sierra steps forward like she’s looking to charge him. My hand snaps out to grab her wrist, but she shakes off my grip without a word. Instead of running she stays her ground, a rage like nothing I’ve ever seen burning behind her eyes. “You saw what he did to me, what he did to Mom! How could you stay by him after everything?!”

      “The same reason you did,” Valdus snaps back. Sierra doesn’t say anything to that. “Do you think I love him for what he did to you two? I came back when I heard about the arena. I begged him to free you both!” Finally there’s emotion behind those stoic eyes of his, but I can’t tell what it is exactly. “He told me he needed you two there, that his mind wouldn’t change on that. But when he won, he’d save all of us. When all of this would be over, we’d all be alive and together. What did you want me to do? Pray for a miracle and get all of us killed?”

      I still can’t find my voice, but Sierra has no problem finding hers. “I want you to grow a backbone! Fight the man who locked Mom in a prison for fifteen years!” She raises her knife and points it at him, sparks of mana flashing beneath her clenched fist. “You left us to die!”

      There’s a murmuring behind me, coming from Oran and Lenora. I can barely hear what either of them are saying, but I manage to catch something about Nichole, about getting to her, and about if Lenora could see any sign of the two other attackers. Based on how there’s only silence after that, I’m guessing she can’t. So I know I should be helping them, to stay on guard for the next blasts, to figure out a way to save Nichole, who’s still lying unconscious on the ground. But even knowing, even with hearing Oran and Lenora, I can’t take my eyes off of our brother, our traitor of a brother who can’t even think of something to say-

      He says something, whispers something, so softly that I can’t make any of it out. Valdus seems to realize this, since he raises his head and speaks with a force behind his words, “I just wanted all of us to be alive at the end of this. All of our family. And he’s a part of ours too.”

      Part of our family? How in the Underworld is the Emperor a part-





      …No. No. The cave goes quiet, deathly quiet, not a peep from Valdus, not from Lenora or Oran, and definitely not from me or Sierra. The shock doesn’t come like a bolt, or an explosion; if it came like either of those things, it would’ve had to start somewhere, somewhere like my head, my gut, anywhere in my body. Instead all of me just freezes at once, and for the second time in the past few minutes I feel like every part of me is shriveling up and dying. No, he’s… no, he can’t, he’s making it up, Mom wouldn’t, she would never… The man she showed me, the dream she showed me with her Magic all the way back in Celestia, Jessie, he was my father, he had to be. My neck comes to life just enough so that I can turn to Sierra, looking for the disgusted look on her face, for her to tell our brother that he was crazy. But she looks just as horrified as I am.

      Gods, no. Please no.

      The Gods don’t say anything; Valdus does. “He didn’t tell me, Krinas, or Oran either. Not until I came back, when I promised I’d stay by him again. He didn’t want that kind of relationship to slow down our training. He needed to be our master, not our father.” He licks his lips, his eyes now jumping back and forth between Sierra and me. “But that can change now. The war can end tonight. And then after that, after everything, we can all come together and really be a family again. You just need to trust us.” The hardness that set up on his face when he blasted at us melts away for a second as he gestures at himself. “Trust me. I love you all, you two and mom. I want the best for all of us. So, please. This doesn’t need to end in a fight.”

      Oran’s voice bites back before anyone else opens their mouth. “Oh, it does.” I don’t need to turn at all to see Oran, because he’s stepped up into my plane of view. He doesn’t charge, doesn’t shoot a spell, but he has his sword up, his eyes set. “None of us are crossing sides. Not now or ever.” For a moment his eyes flash away from Valdus, focusing on me instead. He doesn’t say anything, but I can practically feel the silent question that goes his with his eyes. “Right? You’re not, right?”

      I don’t hesitate. I nod back at him before raising my sword again. Sierra’s got her knives up, and I can feel Lenora’s mana crackling behind me. None of us say anything. We don’t need to. And we won’t ever need to. No matter who the Emperor is, no matter who’s related to him or who isn’t, and no matter who he promises he’ll save when this is all said and done, that answer won’t ever change.

      Valdus’s face stays the same for a while, the same kind of softness that was there before. He keeps looking at us quietly, as if he was waiting for someone to change their mind. After a while he shakes his head and his face hardens back up again. “Alright. Well, that’s it then.” There’s a flicker of his eyes, shooting somewhere off to the side of the cave-

      I raise my sword to the left before I see the blast. Whether it’s Fire or Death I can’t tell, not after my own burst of Magic shoots up from the ground and shields the four of us from whatever came our way. Even with the roar of the deflection in my ears I can still feel the surge of Time Magic spiking in front of us from where Valdus was standing. Fine. With a yell I let out my own bit of Time Magic, zapping towards the center of the room before smashing my sword into my brother’s.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Ian didn’t have to turn around completely to tell that the men around him weren’t doing too well; the screaming, both from them and the zombies, was telling that just enough. His throat and lungs felt thick and heavy with smoke, but he still managed a strangle yell, “CLEAR!” With a grunt he swung his staff to his left, a surge of Myth-fire arcing and sweeping over the heads of the soldiers who had the sense to duck in time. Immediately Ian turned back to his own wall of minions, cursing under his breath after seeing one of them go down in the half-second he turned away. “Keep our sides clear,” he barked back at the soldiers as he formed a replacement minion. “We need them clear!”

      As if they didn’t know that already. They didn’t want to die, so of course they were doing their best to keep everyone safe. But they were doing a bad job of it. It felt like every ten seconds Ian would have to turn back to his left, swing yet another round of fire into the approaching swarm. But it wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t enough help. Sandwiched between his minions and the soldiers, Ian jumped back and forth, doing everything he could to keep the enemies from overwhelming on either front. But slowly, bit by bit, both of those groups were starting to crumble-

      “DRAGONRIDER!” Ian’s head snapped back to the soldiers, eyes zeroing in on the man who screamed his name, finding him just in time to watch the soldier’s neck get torn to shreds by a zombie Krok. Within half a second the man was down, and then another half second before the soldier beside him lost an arm, and then another-

      Ian pushed forward, his staff surging up and out and strong and crack went the Krok’s skull. By the time Ian felt the shock run up from the staff into his arms he was already swinging it through the air again, crumbling another zombie’s legs from beneath it. “Minions,” he cried back, not taking his eyes from the next attackers, “form tighter, get over here!” He couldn’t afford to look back, not now, the minions could hold their own, they had to hold their own. Ian had to trust them. He really didn’t have much of a choice.

      The men and women beside him were still working, still going, but he could see that they were badly hurt. They were slow, inefficient, swinging dented or broken weapons. Ian couldn’t tell how much longer they could hold out, and if they went, he wasn’t sure how much longer his minions would go after that. And if they went-

      “Dragon!” A woman shoved Ian back just before the roar ripped through the Commons. With a whoop from the friendly soldiers blue fire rained down from the sky, a solid wall that obliterated just about every zombie in Ian’s range of vision. He managed to raise his head just in time to see Valkoor and Blue Star zoom off, ripping a joint blast of fire and Time into the backlines of the enemy.

      Somehow, a laugh boomed its way through Ian’s charred lips, ripping through whatever words came to mind. With the Dragon’s fire still burning in front of them, the surrounding soldiers regrouped around the young sorcerer and his minions. But the zombies on the opposite side of the flames were given that same time. Within the passing seconds the flames diminished more, and more, and more…

      Ian held his staff at the ready, doing whatever he could to calm the trembling of his weapon as the monsters launched themselves over the fire.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Luke stepped back after firing yet another burst of Ice into a distant crowd of zombies, taking in a rapid burst of shallow breaths as he watched a few enemies fall to the ground. “There’s too many of them,” he spat. If Autumn heard him, she gave no indication of it. He licked his lips in silence, taking a few seconds to gather himself as his partner launched another Wild Bolt from the air. “This army they got here makes the one they had back in Celestia look like a cake walk.”

      Autumn’s eyes flickered over to the Ice Wizard. “You’re not doubting us, are you SwiftWalker?”

      A shove from Luke seemed like answer enough, but he spoke anyway. “Not for a second. I’m still here, so we still got a chance.” With a rejuvenated force Luke thrust a shaft of Ice, impaling a zombie straight into the ground. “We need more pressure on our front, give Alpha a real chance to end the darn thing. We’re doing them no good back here.”

      “And we won’t do them any better if we disobey orders.” One zombie managed to break through a wall of soldiers in front of the two of them, charging straight for them. Within half a second the thing was a smoldering splatter. “We need to be patient, wait our time.”

      I’ve waited too long to be patient now, Luke thought, and when he turned to Autumn he was opening his mouth to tell her just that-

      Instead he grabbed her roughly by the shoulder, jerking her back just in time to avoid a swipe from an incoming zombie. The two stumbled back together as the monster lunged forward again, this time snagging Luke’s stomach and slamming him into the ground. “Crap!” Luke’s hands tied tightly around the zombie’s mouth, fingers digging into the rotting skin as the thing’s teeth barely missed the underbelly of his armor.

      “Move your hands!” Without thinking Luke listened, pulling his hands away from the zombie just as Autumn’s sword busted through its head. Luke only had a second to shake the body off him before Autumn yelled out, “More!” She was right; dozens of zombie Kroks were sprinting their way, bursting out of the quiet water of the lake with a berserker rage.

      They think they know rage, Luke thought as he shoved himself off the ground. I’ll show them rage! “Stay back!” he yelled out to the nearby friendly soldiers who had turned to help the two Wizards. He drew his knives as Storm Magic crackled around Autumn. Finally, something for him to stab. It was about time.

      Wait, wait, now! Luke exploded forward, his right knife moving with him and sinking quickly across the neck of the first attacker. One, he thought as the thing fell, stepping away from another attack before blasting an icicle through its chest. Two. He kicked the still-flailing zombie with enough force to send it back into two others. He followed the falling trio to give a quick succession of stomps, abruptly silencing the pained cries. Three, four. He switched his grip on his knives for a more defensive stance, blocking and weaving through an assault from three Kroks. Five, he thought as he planted his left knife into the side of its neck, and then six after freezing the second, and then turning to the last only to watch it sail backward from a blast of electricity.

      He didn’t turn back to thank Autumn, instead turning to the next few approaching enemies. Reaching out to the lake, Luke froze a pike of water and sent it hurtling into the unsuspecting backs of the zombies, making seven, eight, nine, ten. He stepped back, taking in a few breathes as even more monsters began emerging from the lake. This time he turned back to Autumn, who had just dispatched her own pair of enemies. “They’re still coming!” he yelled back.

      In answer Autumn raised her hand to the skies, roaring, “Caliptis!” The clouds responded with a roar of lightning, the bolt slamming straight into the lake with a thunderous crash. The electricity snaked across the water in a rush, catching and frying the remaining zombies. Within the second the lake was silent, disturbed only by the floating bodies of their enemies.

      Luke straightened up, allowing himself a tight grin before turning back to his partner. Whatever snarky comment he had in mind died at the back of his throat; the soldiers in front of them were struggling in their absence, struggling badly. With a roll of his eyes Luke began running back to his position, carefully hopping over bodies as he growled another incantation.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Wolf slammed his shoulder into the backdoor, every muscle in his body straining to keep it closed against the rushing horde of zombies behind it. “Storm, get this thing locked-” The door jerked forward a foot or two, just enough space for a rotting arm to flay out and blindly grasp for Wolf’s face. “Hurry!”

      Storm scrambled through the bodies of the third-floor zombies, digging through corpses and daggers before finally finding a battle ax under one of them. Storm staggered to his feet and limped towards the door, panting at the effort of simply holding the giant weapon, saliva and blood spraying from his lips as he bellowed, “Open it!”

      “What-”

      “Do it!”

      Too tired to protest, Wolf dove away, and immediately the door swung open. Dozens of glowing eyes stared back at the two wizards, but only one managed to step forward before Storm heaved the ax, shouting, “Litare!” A jolt of lighting snaked through the air, catching the ax as it planted into the chest of the first monster. The ones behind it managed to shriek before the ax ignited, sending a shockwave of electricity that sent the horde flying backwards. Storm kept his momentum forward and slammed the door shut before shoving his sword in the place of the broken lock.

      As soon as the door was secure the Diviner immediately crumpled to the ground, back fully leaning into the door, taking in heavy, gasping gulps of air. He and Wolf sat in silence, or at least, as silent as it could get right now. Neither of them wanted to say the obvious. Each knew the other knew as well. But after a few seconds, Wolf still stated the obvious. “We… we gotta keep going.”

      Even with the sword in place Storm still jolted forward when a zombie rammed the wooden door from the other side. “Crap,” he hissed, sinking his face into his hands. “We need to rest. We’re no good to anyone if we-”

      For a moment he heard a particularly heavy roar from the other side, but that was soon drowned out as woodchips exploded out from the door a few inches to the right of his head. Storm instinctively sprang away, yelping as he did, and Wolf hastily staggered to his feet as well. “What was that?!”

      A second explosion, closer to the doorknob. This time both Wizards saw the ax break through the wood before retching out for another swing. “Your sword!” Wolf warned as the two backed away.

      “Plenty others to choose from.” Storm snatched a sword from a corpse, but he couldn’t hide just how much it shook in his hands as the third ax blow landed. “I’m not ready to die ShadowBane.”

      “So then don’t. Not that hard.” Even now Wolf shot him a quick smile.

      “Can you at least try to be serious now of all times-”

      The fourth blow brought the door down with it. Both Wizards raised their trembling swords to stare down the next and likely last wave of zombies-

      As the first monster crossed into the room a staff shot out from nowhere and formed a crater right in the middle of the zombie’s face. Wolf, Storm, and even the zombies froze for a half a moment, but the golems that rushed out from the shadows didn’t. They were broken, stunted, and nearly gone, but Wolf and Storm’s efforts had awoken them. With the help of the two Wizards, the once impossible swarm was gone.

      For the second time in a minute Storm collapsed back down onto the ground, but this time he vomited along with it, all of the adrenaline and terror from before retching right out. Wolf looked between the few remaining golems. He knew these things wouldn’t last a minute once they reached the final floor. In all likelihood, neither would he.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      I dive into the mouth of one of the smaller tunnels, the cave momentarily flush with light as Valdus’s lighting arcs inches behind me. In all my years I hadn’t seen it so lit up before. But I didn’t need that light. Even as Valdus’s lightning dissipated and darkness swarmed out of the corners of the cave I stepped through it carefully, purposefully. I’d spent years studying my Magic under the waterfall. I’m going to use that to my advantage.

      Valdus charges in after me, but stops when he’s faced by the wall of darkness. Even when he flicks a bit of electricity to life above his left hand, flickering and shining, it doesn’t do him much good. The darkness spell I had just quickly cast made sure of that. Blasting and screaming from the battle between Krinas, Chase, and the others rings through the mouth of the cave, a chaotic cacophony. But Valdus steps into the dark slowly, carefully, moving a little off to my right. “I know you’re not going to answer me. But I’m going to try reaching out to you anyway, because I don’t want any of us dying today.”

      The cave is suddenly filled with the sound of gentle wading as Valdus enters the shallow pond. “I hate him, Michael. I really do. In all likelihood, I’ll never love the man. He’s done too much to earn that. But I care about my family more than I hate him.” He’s making enough noise for me to slowly creep towards him, my own sword at the ready. If he keeps talking like this, I won’t miss. “Besides, what’re you fighting for at this point? The worlds? Ambrose? What’ve they ever done for you? They threw you into combat when you were a kid. They trained you in Magic so you can end up fighting their battles. Are you really going to throw away everything for that?”

      I won’t let myself listen to him. He could’ve said anything for all I cared. “I’m going to kill the Emperor,” I growl, throwing my voice so that it echoed from every which way. “And then I’ll deal with the rest of the world later.”

      Only ten feet away now. My sword feels slippery in my hands, and it’s not just from the pond water. He’s my brother. He’s doing this for us, even if he’s wrong. But every time that thought creeps in I just remember Nichole’s unconscious body, the blast that he sent at the four of us, the way he must stand at the Emperor’s side like he’s his right hand man. My grip on the sword tightens.

      “Fine. Then I’ll deal with you now.” The electricity sparking from his fingers suddenly intensifies, highlighting his face for a moment before he shoots it down into the water-

      I spring away, pumping raw Magic into the ground to propel me towards the wall just as the pond comes to life with biting, coiling electrical Magic. I straddle the wall, noticing the fading darkness just in time to see Valdus point his hand right at me-

      I block most of his blast, but it’s still strong enough to break the wall of the cave behind me. I grunt, slip, and tumble down, careening down the small hill back into the main cave area. I scramble for my sword, grab it, and immediately raise it to block a crushing swipe from Valdus’s, metal meeting metal with a devasting ring.

      I stumble back another two more steps, only barely stopping his Magically quickened assault. Unfortunately for him, we’re in the middle of one of the largest battles the Spiral has ever seen. After the second step I hold my ground, feel the power of the dead calling out to be avenged, and then grasp it. This time it’s me who strikes, and it’s Valdus who has to hastily block. Our swords hold there for a minute, quivering in their locked hold, his eyes flashing panic and confusion when they meet mine. I glare right back at him.

      “You’re dead!” I roar, disengaging my sword to swing at him again. He ducks, backs up, now on the retreat. “And I’m sending Krinas,” clang, “and Oran,” clang, “and Dad down with you!” When our swords meet again I raise my free hand, and send a blast of black that he’s too slow to block. He flies backwards and slams hard into the Death School, head snapping at a violent angle. Still, he manages to stagger to his feet, spitting out a bloodied tooth as he does.

      Magic and rage and power pump through my veins, Valdus’s terrified eyes all I can see, the voices of the undead all I can hear, roaring, “Kill him kill him kill him” and as I step forward I roar along with them, raise my hand to shield myself as Valdus casts a spell-

      But it’s not aimed at me.

      For a moment the world goes still. Even after all of that fighting and blasting, there’s a single patch of unstained metal on my sword, so clean it’s practically a mirror. I can see Oran raising a wall of earth to block a blast of Death Magic; I can see Sierra and Krinas circling each other, knives in hand; but most importantly, I can see Lenora readying an Ice spell, back turned to us. Back turned to the bolt of lighting careening straight towards her.

      In that moment the undead go silent. Or maybe I just stop listening to them. Because all I can see is Lenora and the lightning and the dream that haunted me in the beginning of the year. A flash of light, an explosion, Lenora ripping away my armor to see a wound that no Wizard could heal. Dying.

      Am I about to die?

      Even when I start moving it feels slow, sluggish. I try to form thunder gloves in my hand, but even I know it’s not going to work. I can’t make a wall, can’t block the lightning. Not without it hitting me.

      After everything, am I going to die?

      I propel myself into the air, raising electrically coated hands that won’t do a thing. The panic exploding in my gut comes quick, though, travels through every bit of me in a moment. Clutching onto every bit of me, trembling, invading every thought in my brain, screaming that I’m throwing it all away, that I’m so, so close, that all I need to do is let Valdus kill Lenora and then I can kill Valdus and then I can kill the Emperor and then-

      No. I don’t have time to say, scream, shout anything, not with that panic clutching my throat so tightly. But I do have enough time to think it.

      I’m going to die. But she won’t.

      I close my eyes. I can still see the flash of lightning bleed through my eyelids, hear Lenora’s frantic cry, feel the lightning make contact-

      And then nothing.

      - - - Updated - - -

      Soooo because that last chapter has such an obnoxious cliff hanger, I figured I should probably upload the next chapter as quickly as possible. Fortunately, it didn't take almost 3 years to manage it!

      Chapter 43: The Finale Part 4: Checkmate

      When Lenora looked behind her it was already too late. Michael was in midair; a look of realization and terror was illuminated across Valdus’s face; and the bolt of lighting was arching straight towards him. She only had enough time to scream before it hit one of her best friends square in the chest.

      The crack and roar of the lightning brought the fighting to an immediate halt. A stunned silence washed over the cave as Michael’s body flew through the air, spiraling wildly before smacking and rolling across the ground. Limp. Unmoving.

      No.

      He came to a skidding stop a few feet in front of her. Numb, the girl stumbled towards him, falling down on her knees to pull him onto his back. He was all deadweight, a boy draped in a block of iron. Michael had never looked so young, so small, like a kid playing with a plastic sword back in Unicorn Way. His eyes were still closed.

      Gods no. Please no.

      Valdus was stammering something, Sierra was squatting down next to her, Oran was sprinting towards them, but Lenora could only look at the blackened spot of his armor directly above his heart. Her fingers shook so badly that she could barely pry it off of him, but somehow she managed. The skin beneath was just as black, just as charred. And when she pressed her hand down against it, she didn’t feel anything. A distant warmth, but nothing else. No breathing. No heartbeat.

      “Oh gods!” Oran was the first one to break the quiet spell. Wide-eyed he stumbled towards the two Ice Wizards, voice quivering and breaking as he cried, “What’re you doing? Come on, HEAL HIM!”

      Sierra met his wide eyes with her red ones. “I can’t,” she croaked, “no one could. Not a hit like that.” But those eyes quickly turned towards Valdus, flanked now by Krinas and Chase. And that red shone like fire as she stood up. “You idiot!” she screamed, voice cracking between rage and hysteria. “That’s our brother you just killed! MURDERER!”

      “I-I,” Valdus stammered, face nearly as pale as Michael’s, “I didn’t think he-”

      “Oh no!” Krinas’s cry was high-pitched and just exaggerated as his movements, rubbing his hands under dry eyes as if he were sobbing. “Someone died in a war! Who would’ve thought jumping in front of a lightning bolt would hurt you?”

      Ignoring the commotion Oran dropped onto his knees and pressed both hands down onto the black spot on Michael’s chest. He pumped his arms vigorously, rhythmically, panting and swearing all the while, trying to restart a heart that just… wouldn’t. All Lenora could do was kneel there, hand lingering over Michael’s, waiting for something to happen. To feel his pulse just magically start up again. To see his eyes snap open and meet her gaze. For five years now he’d been flirting with danger and death and always weaseled his way out. But this time he couldn’t. He knew what would happen and still saved her. He knew he couldn’t get out of it but he still saved her.

      He couldn’t.

      She squeezed her eyes shut to clear the tears away.


      But she could.

      “Get out of my way.” She whispered it, but she did it so firmly and forcefully that it halted Oran in his tracks. His wild, red eyes met hers, and even though tears had fallen from her eyes her face was resolute, set. He scrambled out of the way to allow Lenora to kneel over Michael’s chest. She pressed her other hand down on it. Not to feel for a pulse, not to wait for something to happen. She’d make it happen. Even if it took casting her Soul Spell to do it, she’d restart his heart and clear the damage. She was done letting her friends and the world around her get hurt. She was not stepping down this time.

      She barked the first incantation that came to mind, one she’d never performed yet somehow knew. “Sana!” she cried, and brought her Magic to life. Lenora dug deep, deep into her mana, scraped into recesses of power that she’d never dared touch, and poured it all in. She fought and struggled for every last drop of it and poured it in. Her hands lit up with a fierce blue light, healing Magic transferring from her into Michael. But she kept her eyes open and stared hard through the light, even as it grew brighter and brighter. If she was going to die now, she wanted to see him wake up. She wanted to know it was worth it.

      But she didn’t feel like she was dying. She didn’t feel drained at all. More and more Magic pumped out of her, spiking and roaring unlike anything she’d ever done before, and yet still she kept strong.

      She stared through the light, brave but confused. And because her eyes were open, she was able to see the glowing insignia slowly stitching itself across the back of her left hand. The Ice symbol.

      Lenora WinterGlade was the Chosen One of Ice. And Michael DeathFlame’s heart was beating again.

      As the light under her hands faded Lenora swayed slightly, but still managed to stay on her knees. Michael had instinctively taken in a gasp of air, but his eyes stayed sealed shut. He was breathing, though. Oran and Sierra had stepped back a few feet during the healing, but now that they could see Michael’s chest rising and falling they both took tentative steps forward. Lenora finally looked away from him, up at the others, and somehow found an exhausted smile-

      “Vortexa!” Oran’s gaze was ripped away from his alive-again friend. He saw Valdus’s hand shaking, saw his card flying right at Lenora and Michael, saw Lenora’s eyes widen in a moment of realization-

      He dove forward to grab her, but by the time he did the vortex had already formed under her and Michael. His hand snatched empty air as the two collapsed into the portal before it sealed shut. They were both gone.

      Sierra drew her knives and Oran his sword, but as the three other Wizards charged, Oran knew they were done. The two of them couldn’t beat three powerful Wizards. They’d be beaten and captured, and no one would know that they failed. No help would be coming. And if Oran and Sierra ran the others would just follow. Oran was the last Chosen One standing. They were going to follow him to the edge of the Spiral if they had to.

      He turned quickly to Sierra. “Get Ambrose,” he said, “and save Michael.” Before she could realize what he was doing his own card had fluttered down to the ground. “Vortexa.”

      Sierra fell into the portal with a frustrated yell, but Oran had already turned away from it. Instead of jumping in with her he stepped forward, and with a shout sent the largest blast of Magic he could muster at three of them.

      Valdus and Chase blocked the blast as Krinas propelled himself over it, continuing his mad dash towards Oran, the last one standing. “You’re not getting away,” the Pyromancer sang, sending a blast of fire careening towards Oran.

      A wall of earth greeted it, shuddering on impact. “Not the point,” Oran growled, sending another blast Chase’s way when he saw the Necromancer reaching for a Vortex card. Oran pumped his hands forward and moved himself forward with the earth, the earth ripping and moving him along away from Krinas and towards the others, moving just quick enough to evade the blasts of magic sent his way. He pumped his fist, screaming an incantation to bring a row of stalactites raining down from above, forcing the three to scatter away for a moment.

      But as the dust settled, they pressed on. And Oran only had so much room to run and shoot. He was forced to come to a stop five feet away from the cliff overlooking the void, an infinitely long drop with absolutely no chance of return. Oran turned on his heel away from the drop, breathing heavily, sword shaking in his hands as he stared at the slowly approaching Wizards.


      They converged on him all at once. Oran could block one or two hits, but not all three. His shield splintered under a blow from Chase’s sword and sent woodchips straight his cheeks. Fire bled through a hastily made wall of magic and burnt his feet, forcing him forward and right into a gloved fist that collided with his jaw. As his vision went white and he stumbled to the left a plated knee drove deep into his stomach, knocking the air right out of him. Wheezing, Oran nearly fell to his knees. But instead he swiped his sword out, doing anything to keep them busy, to buy Sierra more time, to give her a chance to get his friends out of this alive. The swipe was easily evaded.

      It took three more hits to the face before Oran finally fell to the ground, gasping for air, hands still blindly clawing at the ground for his sword. But Chase just kicked it aside. “Goodnight, ShadowSmith.”

      Chase’s foot reeled back and planted right in between Oran’s eyes. The Wizard collapsed on the ground.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Sierra was quick to spring to her feet as soon as the vortex spat her out onto the pathway of the wall. But she wasn’t quick enough to jump back into it before the portal snapped out of existence. The Thaumaturge stood there for a moment, staring up at the place the vortex had been, panting like mad, thoughts racing. Her brother was dead, now he was alive; Lenora was useless, now she was the last Chosen One; Valdus was her brother, now he was a traitor; they went in as six, and now she was the last one standing. The Emperor had all of them.

      A magical roar tore her out of her thoughts for a moment. Head whipping to the left, she watched as a blast of Balance Magic streamed from a Wizard on the wall, coating a swath of enemy zombies in its light below. There was only one Wizard on their side who could do something like that. He was also the only one who could get them out of this mess.

      Sierra shoved her way through a horde of gaping soldiers, staggering and tripping until she broke out into a sprint, moving her way towards Merle Ambrose. Oran had saved her for a reason. Now she needed to get backup.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      I never knew what to expect after you died. Years ago, I believed in an afterlife. That changed the more I saw. But I guess it must exist, because I can still feel something. Bit by bit my senses come back to me, starting with the pain. A sharp, stabbing pain right in my chest, like a spike sticking right through me, rubbing against my lungs every time I take in a shallow breath. And then a dull ache running down the length of my body. For the first time in a long, long time, I have no mana.

      But then come the rest of my senses. People are talking, mumbling things I can’t make out just yet. But I recognize a few of those voices. I try to open my mouth to growl, “Valdus,” but all that comes out is a groan. I can’t move my mouth. Because something is stuffed in it. A rag. There’s another one over my head, too, so that even when I open them all I see is black. And even if I could muster the strength to get off my knees and stumble to my feet, I couldn’t. Not with these heavy chains locking my hands behind my back.

      “He’s waking up,” Valdus whispers.

      A colder, familiar voice fills the room. “Take off his blindfold and his gag. He’s no threat to anyone in this state.” Footsteps behind me, then suddenly light floods my eyes. I squeeze them shut and wince as the gag is ripped out of my mouth, allowing me to take in a gulp of clean air. After a few seconds I force myself to squint, to stare through the blinding light until it becomes just a little less blinding. The room slowly swims into focus. If it weren’t for the Spiral Door, I don’t think I’d realize we were in Bartelby. The once healthy brown tree is now withering away, gray, decayed veins creaking up the walls of the great tree. A heavy layer of dust hangs in the air, blurring the torchlights set up around the perimeter of the hollowed-out space. Most of the Death Bringers stand on guard by them, barely in view of the light.

      My attention immediately goes to where I am, though, right in the middle of the room. There’s a small circle drawn in some sort of chalk, lines and runes running through the middle of it. I’m chained down at the edge, and six others are too, each of them with sacks over their head. But I can see enough of their hair to figure out who some of them are. Nichole, Destiny, Lenora, even Chris. The other two must be Oran and Isaac. Valdus and Allan stand along the circle, unchained, looking at me from the other side. Nine of us total. Every single Chosen One is here and alive. Including me.

      I’m not dead. But this is much worse.

      “My son.” The voice is back, coming from right behind me. I steel myself, force myself not to flinch as a hand rests on my shoulder. I stare straight ahead, straight at the sack covering Destiny’s head, but I can still see his face in the corner of my vision. Long, black hair. Emerald green eyes that always had looked uncomfortably familiar. And a pale, young, boney face that looked too much like mine. “It’s been a long time. It’s so good to have you back.”

      I try to stand up again, try to dig for any mana I have left, but I can’t manage either of them. I must’ve lost all my mana taking the lightning bolt. Without Magic, I’m not strong enough to break out of these chains, especially not with my armor still on. Everyone else chained down is still armored up too. But by the way they’re all slouched over, they seem just as drained as I am.

      One of us has enough energy to turn their head, though. “‘Son?’” Chris’s voice is unmistakable. “The heck does that mean?”

      If the Emperor heard, he doesn’t show it. His face stays just as even as he circles around me, towering over me. This close up, his aura is almost overwhelmingly loud, so potent I can practically feel it pressing into me. The wildness of his Source Magic snaps violently at me, a constant buzz that makes it difficult to concentrate on his words. “It’s a shame you had to resist. But with time you’ll grow to understand.”

      “Understand what?” I growl, refusing to meet his gaze.

      So he bends down, grabs my face, and forces me to look at him. He’s smiling now. I resist the urge to gulp. “That I am not someone who can be resisted. As much as you may want to, it’s futile. Do you know why I’m doing this, Michael?”

      “I don’t care.”


      His smile widens at my response. “That’s fine. You don’t need to share my vision. You don’t need to love me. You don’t even need to recognize me as your father. But with time you’ll share this simple understanding.” He leans forward, face only inches away from mine now. “I am a force of nature. And you can’t stop nature.”

      My veins pulse under his grip on my face as my jaw clenches. “We’ll see about that.”

      “No. We won’t.” He turns away and lets me go. He takes a few steps to stand in the center of the circle he’s drawn, head turning slowly from left to right to take in the nine Chosen Ones surrounding him. “The rest of you will have the same opportunity to learn. Within the half hour I will possess all of your powers, and I’ll have the tools I need to reshape the Spiral. You can be a part of that world, or if you so choose, you can die.”

      “Does Isaac get that choice too?” Chris barks, straining in his chains. “Or are you gonna kill him before Allan finds out-”

      Time Magic snaps to life, so quick that I don’t see the Emperor move when he smacks Chris’s covered head sharply to the left. “Careful now, IronThorn,” the Emperor says, the first hint of annoyance slipping into his voice, “I’d like you alive, but I don’t need your tongue.” Considering Isaac doesn’t speak up, I’d bet he’s gagged on top of blindfolded. Still, I didn’t miss the look on Allan’s face or the way he’s now watching the Emperor with a careful look in his eyes.

      We need to get out of this. We need to take him down before he can get this ritual off. If I could just work up enough Magic to break these chains, I could maybe get us out of this.

      But even as I slam my eyes shut and try my best to tap into the undead, I can’t. Not quickly enough. I’m so tired, so bruised, everything is taking too slow. I just can’t concentrate. I dig deeper, deeper, deeper-

      I don’t see it, but I hear it, and I sure as heck feel it. The Emperor starts chanting, and Magic spikes out of the circle like an explosion.

      The ritual’s begun.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~


      By the time they cleared the second-to-last floor, the broken-down golems had all been destroyed. Once again, Wolf and Storm were alone. And the last floor of zombies wanted to keep it that way. Someone must have learned their trick below, because when Wolf threw his shoulder against the final door, the thing wouldn’t budge. “They have blocked,” Wolf panted, taking a step back. “Guess we’re gonna have to blast it down.”

      “I know you’re just inching to get butchered, but give me a second before you go swinging in.” Storm stepped past the Necromancer and kneeled down by the door, leaning his right as close to it as he dared. After a long pause he stood back up and shook his head. “Couldn’t see much, but it looks bad. They got a bunch of bows and axes ready to let loose as soon as that door goes down. We’d be walking right into a choke point.”

      “So? We made it this far. You figured we’d probably die at the end of this anyway.”

      “This is different,” Storm snapped. “This is certain and stupid. We don’t have the Magic to shield all of that at once. We’ll die before we take three steps in, and it’ll do no good. What’s the point?”

      Wolf couldn’t bring himself to admit it, but Storm was right. Charging in wouldn’t do anyone any good. But they made it so far, fought so hard. He couldn’t just throw all that away. Not when they were this close.

      His eyes wandered away from Storm, snapping across the room to find something, anything that could help them. He found something.

      When he mentioned it, Storm pursed his lips and stood like that for a long time. Wolf was starting to think he’d petrified the Diviner until Storm finally just shrugged. “Crap. Guess that’s our best bet.”


      It didn’t take them long to make an impromptu grappling hook, and only took a little while longer to successfully swing it up onto the roof of the floor above them. They did, however, stand together quietly for a minute, both looking up at the rope above, both silent for that string of moments. There were no bows peaking out of the window slits above them; they would be scaling the tower on the side facing the Ravenwood wall. No need for archers there. They’d have a few seconds to make it through the window and find some cover. And from there…

      Wolf was the first to break the quiet. “If I don’t make it out of this,” he muttered, voice really shaking for the first time, “tell my buds I went down swinging.” He gulped. “And that I wasn’t scared.”

      Storm licked his lips and swallowed his retort. “Alright. Fair.” He paused, thinking for a minute. “I don’t really have anyone for you to tell anything. Just don’t make up something stupid about me if I die.”

      That at least brought a small smile back to the Necromancer’s face. “Deal. But if you live, I’m telling everyone you crapped your pants.”

      “You wouldn’t be lying.” Wordlessly the two grasped each other’s hands, and then in unison dropped out of the window, the rope attached to their wastes billowing with them through the air. But they didn’t drop for long. With a pump of his hands, winds billowed out beneath Storm, sending him and Wolf shooting up the side of the tower, closing in towards the windows-

      “Now!” Storm cut off his Magic just enough so the two Wizards could reach out and sling themselves through the window slits. As they thought, they only had a moment to look around the room. Debris from the partially caved-in ceiling littered the ground, but it was the zombies that they zeroed in on. Some must have retreated from lower floors, because this floor was absolutely packed. And every pair of red eyes immediately turned to look at the two of them.

      Both Wizards fired off as powerful of a blast as they could manage, obliterating a huge chunk of the zombies. But even as the lights cleared there were still, too many others, raising their bows and axes and swords, and neither Wizard could fire off another blast in time, so they dove for safety, barreling towards a larger piece of debris-

      Storm made it. Wolf did too, but not before an arrow streaked through the air and slipped through a crack in the Necromancer’s chest plate.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Every atom in my body is vibrating. Every bit of the world is shaking. Magic itself feels like it’s on the verge of shattering. Raw energy spirals around the circle, all of it converging on the Emperor, red and purple and blue and brown and yellow and green and black. His mana, already explosive and intense, is only growing more and more with every passing second. Magic crackles, spits, and finally begins to roar, a whirlwind of power that feels too crushing to be real. And all the while I continue to strain for the undead, feeling bits of mana slowly trickle back into me, steadily but not quick enough, pooling in my gut as the circling Magic grows higher and higher, towering into the sky like a tornado around us. The Emperor stands at its center, arms raised above his head, hair whipping furiously in the Magical storm, his chanting growing quicker and more victorious, eyes closed as he becomes power incarnate.

      And then, all at once, it’s over. The Magic surges into the Emperor, and the world is still. The Death Bringers, Valdus, and Allan stare on in awe as he slowly lifts his hand to his face, flexing his fingers into a fist. Multi-colored Magic sparks into existence for the briefest moment before the Emperor cuts it off.

      “That’s it,” he says, a smile creeping up his face as he turns his back on me. “The power of every school now runs through my veins.” He steps out of the circle, moves between Destiny and Isaac, and walks towards the Spiral Door, away from us. “With this power, the resistance on this world will end abruptly. And it shall end on every other world as well.” He stands before the Spiral Door, Magic pulsing out of him as he clasps his hands behind his back. “Checkmate.”

      Not yet it’s not. He still needs us alive for the next half hour for the ritual to be permanent. All we have to do is kill him, Valdus, or Allan, and then it’s broken. We can still do this. We can. That’s what I tell myself, at least, scream at myself, repeat it over and over again to drown out the overwhelming surge of doubt. Deep down I know we barely stand a chance. But we’ve made it this far. And even if it’s hopeless, we still need to try.

      So I push those doubts out and snap, “Not yet. This is just like Marleybone.”

      Allan’s eyes finally detach from the Emperor to swivel towards me, narrowing slightly. “What?” But by the way Oran, Chris, Lenora, and – most importantly – Destiny’s heads perk up, I know the message got across. With just enough Magic finally pooled in my belly, I release it with a grunt, shattering the chains binding my hands. I whip my wand out from the hidden sleeve on my back, thrust it forward, and cry, “Sofacar!”

      Valdus immediately jumps to shield our father, but my wand isn’t pointed at him. Instead the small tendril of magic snakes through the air and slices through the sack that had been gagging Destiny. The cloth falls aside just as green light springs to life from her neck. Her voice is scratchy and raw, but it’s strong enough to scream, “Vita!”

      A ring of Life Magic surges out of her in an instant and shoots through the six of us. In a moment I come alive, Magic flowing and flooding through me once again. Chase jumps to secure the still-kneeling Isaac, but before he makes it halfway across the room a pillar of fire breaks him off. The sack that had been thrown over Chris’s head burns away as the Pyromancer pounces forward and seizes Isaac’s chains, melting the metal between his fingers as he rips the young boy’s gag away. With a zap of Time Magic the six of us sprint to the center of the circle, back-to-back-to-back, forming our own tight circle, wands and swords raised as the Death Bringers spring to life.

      “Wait.” They all freeze at the Emperor’s command. In the seconds it took us to spring into action he hadn’t moved at all. Only now does he turn his head to take us in, one by one. Lenora, hastily trying to heal a drained Destiny; Nichole, electricity cracking from her cracked wand; Isaac, staring right at a pale Allan; Chris, rolling his shoulders and literally shooting impatient flames out of his nostrils; Oran, readying his sword and stepping by my side; and me, wand in one hand and sword in the other, staring right back at my father.

      Who now is smiling at our tight band of seven. “I don’t know how you managed that little trick. I must admit, I admire your tenacity. I would hate to see it wasted in a fight you cannot win.” He raises his arms to either side as the Death Bringers begin to slowly circle us. “Beating me was an impossibility before. But now? Now it is foolishness. The seven of you don’t stand a chance.”

      “No, they do not.” The wizened voice booms through Bartelby, and for one moment of insanity I think the tree is coming to life. And then I recognize it. “But the nine of us will fare far better.” A portal cracks to life in the tight space between the seven of us, opening up to allow Ambrose and Sierra to stand in the middle of us.

      Oran manages to crack a tight smile, eyes flicking over to Sierra for a moment. “Glad to see one of my plans finally work.”

      Sierra does return the smile, but she only has eyes for the Emperor, knives out and at the ready. “Doesn’t work unless we finish this.”

      The Emperor, on the other hand, refuses to tear his gaze off Ambrose. The sight of his brother immediately twists his face into something darker, more vicious, and somehow, more natural. Like his unflinching calmness from before was just a mask that only now has been ripped away. “Merle. Thank you for coming. You’ve saved me the trouble of hunting you down.”

      “I haven’t saved you anything,” Ambrose replies evenly. Unlike the Emperor, the calm that settles over my old Headmaster doesn’t seem fake or forced. If anything, there’s a touch of melancholy in his voice when he continues, “We both know you would’ve preferred the hunt. You would’ve loved the thrill of cornering your brother.”

      With Chris immediately to my left I can see him stiffen at the last bit and hear his breath cut off short. But if he says anything, it’s drowned out by the Emperor’s laugh, a short, empty grunt of a thing. “Please Merle, step down from that high horse of yours. We both know you’re not above killing family. Or abandoning them, for that matter.”

      “At least I’ve never held my child nephew imprisoned for years,” Ambrose snaps back before stopping himself. For a moment the two brothers glare down each other, Magic spiking for a moment so severely it feels like Bartelby just might collapse. But the moment passes. Ambrose drops his gaze.

      “I’ve done terrible things.” In the midst of a world-changing battle, I never expected to hear someone talk so quietly. Ambrose’s voice was small, lacking the assurity and authority it always had before. The wrinkles in his face grew deeper and darker as his eyes remained trained on the ground. “I’ve hurt people I loved the most. My students. My friends. My wife. Our father. My sons. And you.” Wordlessly, Isaac reaches out and squeezes the older man’s hand. At the sight of it something flashes across Allan’s face, a wince that I can’t quite figure out. Ambrose, on the other hand, glances down at his youngest son and smiles. A trickle of Life Magic flows through Ambrose’s body and into the boy’s, sealing the small wounds from the chains that had bound his wrists for so long.

      The wrinkles in his face are still dark, but Ambrose raises his face anyway to look between the Emperor. “I can’t undo the hurt I’ve inflicted on both of you. But killing millions of innocents won’t undo it either. Strike me if you have to. That I understand. But this cycle of violence can end there tonight.” His eyes flick to Allan for a moment. “My mistakes don’t need to control your destiny.”

      A silence settles over the hollow space for a moment. But the Emperor is intent to keep that moment a short one. “You’re right on two counts,” he growls. “Firstly, you don’t control me. You never have, and you never will. And lastly, yes, I can strike you down. The power of every School lies within me now. And I’d guess you’re a tad less immortal tonight.” He raises his hand, and seemingly materializes a staff out of thin air. The old wooden rod cracks against the floor beneath us. “I’ve waited too long for this to flinch at your speeches.”

      A deep sigh drains out of Ambrose, easing out of him until there’s nothing left to expel. He looks away from the Emperor again, this time turning to his own staff, clenched tightly between his hands. “So be it,” he whispers. “And Allan.” Father and son look up, Ambrose’s tired eyes staring right through Allan’s bloodshot ones. Ambrose opens his mouth, stumbles over a word. “I’m-”

      I feel the Emperor’s power spike, but I feel it too late to react. Fortunately, Ambrose does. He snaps in front of us and slams his staff between us and the Emperor, blocking the explosion of Time Magic that would have vaporized all of us. I roll away, through the dust, wand and sword raised. The Emperor and the Death Bringers spring through the cloud right towards us.
      Read The Virus Book 3 The Scroll of Death,the first series to get 100,000 views!

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      Michael DeathFlame's Avatar
        Michael DeathFlame is offline Grandmaster Wizard

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      Re: The Virus Book 3 The Scroll of Death

      Wow, we're really almost there! Only three or four more chapters to go!

      Chapter 44: The Finale Part 5: Battle of the Brothers


      For a moment their swords were just flashes of silver and steel in the cloud, bodies and masks hidden behind the curtain of dust. With Ambrose flying into the sky to fight the Emperor I have room to step back, plant my feet, and deflect a pair of slashes aimed at Oran and me. For a moment all I can do is block, never able to strike back, not with the cloud. But I feel Nichole plant herself behind my back, feel her arms shoot out to the side, and feel a gust of wind billow out of her in every direction. The dust shoots out and past our attackers, leaving the hollowed out tree as clear as it can be.

      Immediately my head turns to the sky, searching for the two dueling brothers, ready to propel myself up after them. But I freeze when my eyes finally lock on them. No, “lock on” is the wrong term. The two Wizards move fast, impossibly fast, to the point where it’s difficult just to follow them. They fly above us, Magic billowing out at each other, their auras so concentrated that it surrounds them both in whirling, crackling Magical spheres. I wouldn’t stand a chance.

      So instead I look back down to the ground, back to the Death Bringers. Without the cover of the cloud they stand ten yards out, weapons raised, eyes gleaming through the slits of their skull masks in the torchlight, chests rising and falling just as rapidly as ours. David BroomWielder and Oran DeathFlame are both missing; there’s only six of them here. Now that Sierra’s here, there’s eight of us. But Destiny… “Mike, what’s the plan?” Oran mutters, his eyes jumping from enemy to enemy.

      Valdus and Chase are muttering back and forth, probably doing the same thing we are. It’s only a matter of time before they figure out their end and decide to get into it. My mind’s whirling, struggling to put something together in the moments before the fighting starts again. “Lenora, stick with Destiny. Don’t let someone take her one-to-one. We can double-team one more Death Bringer. It should probably be Chase.”

      “No way,” Chris growls. Unlike Oran, his eyes stay focused. And they’re right on Chase. “I’ve had my eyes on that rat since the South City. He’s mine.”

      “But-”

      “He’s mine,” he repeats, more firmly than before. “He can’t kill me for the next thirty minutes. That’s plenty of time for me to take him out.”

      We don’t have time to argue. “Fine,” I snap, “then we need two on Krinas. Oran and Sierra, that’s you. I can take Valdus. Isaac, try talking some morals into your brother. And Nichole, that kid with the spear? He killed Charles.”

      The mask covers most of his face, but not enough to completely hide the color drain from it when Nichole’s eyes narrow on him. “Noted.”

      Valdus and Chase have stopped talking, but they don’t spring forward. Not yet, at least. As Ambrose and the Emperor carry their fight outside of Bartelby the inside of the great tree goes silent, still. They’re waiting for us. It makes sense, I guess. We’re the ones who’re on the thirty minute timer, not them.

      I breathe out a long, slow breath, and while I do that I take a moment to quickly look over our group. With the exception of Isaac, these are the people I’ve lived and died by for the past five years. Destiny, whose compassion and patience always amazed me; Nichole, who inspired me to become the Wizard I am now; Lenora, who seemingly always does the right thing; Sierra, who never fails to surprise me when it comes down to just how much she cares; and of course, Chris and Oran, who’ve been with me since the beginning. “If things go south,” I say, eyes settling on Oran, “I’m glad we can all go down together, at least.”

      No one says anything to that. I guess the time for talk’s gone. I set my sights on my brother. And with a collective roar, we charge.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Fear, not pain, was the first thing that flashed across Wolf’s face as the arrow hit home. It was only after the Necromancer shakily drew a card, only after he yelped, “Dethosus,” only after the small death bubble sprang to life and enshrined him and Storm, that the pain finally sparked out. He curled into the wound, trying his best not to whimper as Storm shot to his knees and tried to get a hold of his friend. “Stay still!” he barked fiercely, but even he couldn’t hide the fear throbbing in his throat. He rolled Wolf onto his back, hoping against hope that the arrow hadn’t slipped all the way through, or at the very least hit somewhere harmless. But that hope vanished the moment he saw the arrow protruding out of him, encircled by a growing pool of dark red that was already beginning to spill down the rings of his armor. For a moment he cupped his hands over the wound, trying to apply enough pressure to slow down the bleeding. But all that did was soak his hands in the stuff, and Wolf was just getting paler and paler.

      “Well?” Wolf croaked. “Do I look pretty?” Tears were starting to well up in the Necromancer’s eyes.

      Storm didn’t bother trying for a smile. He knew he couldn’t manage one. “The prettiest girl in Wizard City.”

      “Probably because the prettier ones are all dead. Quick, knock on wood. Wouldn’t want to end up like that, right? Yeah?” Zombies were screaming from the outside of the bubble, bashing their weapons against it, Magic rippling through the protective sphere fiercely under the assault. Nevertheless, the silence between the two Wizards felt overwhelming. So much so that Wolf had to gulp just to break it. “So, um. I got one more stupid plan. It’ll probably be my last one. So you can’t shoot it down.”

      “Oh come on,” Storm retorted, trying his best to keep his voice light, as if Wolf wasn’t a minute away from bleeding out under him, “no promises there. You’ll probably have stupider plans in the future. I’ve seen you in worse shape than this.”

      “No you haven’t.” As the tears started to drop out of his eyes any hint of a smile dropped out of his voice. “I need you to cast a Wild Bolt. It’ll fry the last of these things, and I have enough in me to hold the bubble against a bolt.”

      “Not without killing yourself, you don’t.”

      “Maybe. But, I don’t think-” Wolf’s eyes squeezed shut for a moment as a shudder ran through his body. When they opened back up he couldn’t stop trembling. “I don’t think what I do matters as much at this point.” He reached out and clasped Storm’s left hand between both of his, holding onto him for all he was worth. “Just remember what I said. I went down swinging.” The tears were coming more freely now. “No fear.”

      Storm’s eyes remained dry; he didn’t have the luxury to cry, not in front of Wolf, not while he was dying. But he wanted to. Gods he did. They’d fought together for years, bickered for years. But not once did he ever allow himself to reveal a shred of his true feelings to Wolf. Not until now, at least. Not until he’s one foot out the door.

      He returned Wolf’s grasp, squeezing him right back. “You’re going to be okay,” Storm whispered. “Drop the bubble.”

      The boy’s bloodied face twisted. “What? But-”

      Storm had spent the better part of five years listening to his head. If he was about to die, he might as well listen to his heart for once. Before he could question himself, he bent down and quickly pressed his lips against Wolf’s. It was brief, fleeting, but enough to stop the Necromancer in his tracks. Storm snapped away as the moment passed. Perhaps if imminent death wasn’t staring him the face, he would’ve blushed. Hopefully he’d have the chance later. “Trust me.”

      The bubble was already starting to crack as it was. All Wolf had to do was relent a little and it came crashing down, falling like a shower of shattering glass. Storm hefted him up in his arms, careful of the arrow still protruding from his chest as the zombies sprang towards them. But Storm was already backing towards the window, and the card had already fluttered to the ground when he shouted, “Thuda!”

      Storm hurled himself out the window as the words roared past his lips. For a moment he and Wolf were both weightless, floating above the raging battle below as a shiver of light awoke in the sky. Gravity gripped them and brought them down, but it brought the lightning down with it. Electricity screamed through the air and crashed through the roof of Golem Tower, engulfing the entirety of the top floor in its violent roar. But Storm’s eyes were focused on the quickly approaching ground, and with a desperate cry he shoved one hand forward, conjuring as strong of a wind as possible to slow them down.

      The Magic came, but not quick enough. The impact didn’t kill him, but it shattered his leg in an instant, crumpling underneath him and the armor as a scream pierced his lips. He’d broken Wolf’s fall, the Necromancer landing mostly unhurt on top of him. But zombies were already converging upon the both of them, screaming to avenge their comrades in the tower. Through the blaring pain at his leg Storm had enough sense to shield Wolf’s eyes and close his own-

      There was another flash of light, the distinct roar of Magic. But it wasn’t Storm’s. “Bring them into the tower!” Before Storm could even fully recognize Ian’s voice he felt a pair of hands loop under his arms and hoist him up. His eyes sprang open as Ian’s golems gingerly lifted him and Wolf off the battlefield, hurriedly carrying them with the rest of the soldiers streaming into the newly-taken tower. Right behind them was the golem’s master, still shooting the occasional blast of Myth-fire over his shoulders as Storm and Wolf were carried into safety.

      Ian turned away from the zombies, rushed into the tower, and slammed the door behind him. “Medic!” he roared, wide eyes zeroed in on Wolf’s chest. Immediately two healers sprang into action, kneeling besides the still-bleeding Necromancer as Storm slowly came to the realization he wasn’t about to die. But Wolf…

      “Is he-” he tried to stammer, but couldn’t. The bravado he’d conjured to assure a dying friend, the adrenaline of jumping off the top of the tower, the momentary acceptance of death, it had all been too much too close together. His voice was broken by a gnarled sob that hunched him over, only further inflaming his broken leg.

      Of all people, Ian was the one to bend down and place a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Yeah,” he insisted, “he’ll be fine.” Even though Storm couldn’t stop himself from crying, hearing that from Ian meant a lot. Ian was many things, but a liar wasn’t one of them. Sure enough, the healers were making steady work on the Necromancer. He might not be up on his feet for quite some time, but he wasn’t about to die. Not yet, at least.

      With his mana and emotions shot, Storm collapsed backwards onto the floor of the Golem Tower, taking in huge, shaky gulps of air. He reached through the sea of healers and intertwined his hand through Wolf’s.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      The fighting within Bartelby had broken up into smaller ones, but Chris only had eyes on Chase. He’d burned Chase in the South City with his dragon, and had promised him a dance back in the Inferno City. The two of them never got the chance to finish that dance. Not until now, at least.

      Some of the other fighting had moved outside of Bartelby, but those two were still locked right in the middle of the great tree. After his long capture, the Pyromancer was hyper aggressive, straining every bit of Time Magic he could to move faster, swing harder, roar louder. Unlike the last time they met, Chris could match Chase’s speed. The smile that had previously flashed across Chase’s face at the sight of the charging Pyromancer vanished long ago. It’d been replaced by a strained one. Not fearful, not panicked, just strained, concentrated.

      But even though he was a closer match, a sliver of reason burned brighter than Chris’s passion. He could feel Chase’s aura as their swords clashed, quickened by their steady stream of Time Magic. Chase could keep this pace far longer than Chris could ever hope to. If he was going to kill the Necromancer once and for all, he’d need a different approach.

      His eyes flicked to something over Chase’s shoulders before switching right back to his target. “What’s wrong, SpiritRider? You’re quieter than before.”

      Unsurprisingly, Chase couldn’t help but bark back, “I’ll have plenty to say in half an hour. I did promise I’d kill you, IronThorn. I’ll just have to wait.”

      With another push forward from Chris, Chase was forced to take another step back. Almost there. “Oh please. You’ll be dead way before that.” He pumped his arms forward, shooting a blast of fire at Chase’s feet, forcing him another step back, then another-

      Knowing full well Chase couldn’t just stab him, Chris lunged forward, propelled by Fire and Time Magic. Before Chase could react Chris slammed right into him, the force of his jump carrying both of them through the Spiral Door.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      The yellow flame that shot from the top of Golem Tower seemed insignificant to most fighting below. But it sent a wild grin across Luke’s face. “We have the tower!” The gleeful moment didn’t last long, though. He turned quickly to the Wizards that had been holding back with him and Autumn the entire battle and barked, “Thaumaturges, with me!” Every single Ice Wizard the army had left to offer moved their arms with Luke, chanting in unison, eyes focused on the lake before them. For a few seconds it remained undisturbed. But as their chanting grew more intense the water began to shudder, and as they all raised their arms a torrent of water surged towards them and rushed across the battlefield. Wizard City soldiers sprang backwards as best they could as the growing wall of water split the field in two, an icy tail following in its wake. With a final heave the wall slammed into the side of Golem Tower, and a moment later the water froze. Every Ice Wizard fell to their knees to take in gulps of air. Every one except Luke, that is. He staggered where he stood, but even as he felt his mana take a hit he held his ground, looked up at his work, and found his grin again.

      The ice wall now stretched from the lake to the Golem Tower, effectively cutting the battlefield in half. On their side the wall was generously sloped and jagged, providing easy footholds for soldiers to clamber up to the top of the fifteen-foot structure. The zombies on the other side wouldn’t be so lucky.

      As the temporary reprieve washed over their side Luke and Autumn rushed towards the tower, but Ian was already coming out of it. As the Conjurer stepped through the door Luke managed to spy some healers working furiously over his shoulder. His stomach dropped when he recognized the patients. “Storm and Wolf-”

      But Ian jumped in quick enough. “Are both going to live. But they’re decommissioned for the rest of the battle. And probably for another month on top of that. You know, assuming we live, obviously.”

      The three Wizards flinched as Blue Star landed heavily ten yards away from them. Valkoor slid off and landed with slightly more grace than his Dragon. “How many did we lose taking it?” he barked at the three, though his eyes were still shifting around the battlefield.

      “No one, sir,” Ian responded just as quickly. “Two Wizards are badly hurt, but they’ll make it.”

      Even though there were thousands of zombies growling just a few feet behind that wall, Luke couldn’t help but grin. “About time we got some good luck, huh?”

      But Valkoor didn’t share his smile. “Hardly. I saw Ambrose vortex himself and Sierra away a few minutes ago. I haven’t seen a lick of them anywhere.”

      Luke’s smile faltered, but Ian’s entire face seemed to fall in an instant. “Wait, Sierra was there? Just Sierra?”

      Valkoor nodded curtly. “I only saw her for a moment, and it was from far away. They were both gone before I got any closer. But I didn’t see anyone else with her.”

      The news left Ian pale, cold. “She was supposed to be with Lenora and the others. If she was the only one who came back-”

      A monstrous screech split through the air and silenced Ian’s increasingly panicked voice. Every head behind the ice wall immediately shot up to the sky. The source of the roar was so black that it only came into view when he flew past the clouds, a gigantic shadow that had launched out from Ravenwood. Most of the soldiers from Wizard City cried out in alarm, unsure of what was coming down upon them. But everyone from Celestia recognized it immediately. Autumn was shaking. “It’s his Skeletal Dragon,” she whispered. “Is the Emperor…?”

      “No,” Valkoor muttered back, “no, he’s not. I would’ve sensed him by now. The Dragon is riderless.” He was still, reflective for a moment before unsheathing his sword and rushing back to his own Dragon.

      “Wait, Valkoor!” Autumn cried, breaking from the others to catch her old general. As Valkoor catapulted onto Blue Star’s saddle she reached his foot and clamped onto it. “That thing is too strong to take on by yourself, even without the Emperor!”

      “I know.” After years of charging into seemingly unwinnable battles, Valkoor was remarkably calm. When he reached down to clasp Autumn’s hand his own was still. He tried to squeeze a bit of that stillness into her. “Blue Star is calling out for some help. Hopefully it’ll come. But even if it doesn’t, I can’t let it take down the wall.” He gave her one last squeeze. “If I go down, you and Luke are in charge. Make me proud.” And with that Blue Star launched into the air with a roar, soaring straight up towards the Skeletal Dragon.

      Autumn couldn’t watch Valkoor go for too long without being interrupted. “We got company!” Mitchell’s yell rang out above the rest of the commotion, immediately drawing the attention of the three Wizards back to the wall. They sprang forward and scrambled up the surface of the icy structure to stand by the elf general. He pointed out through the hoard of zombies. “Some old friends are back,” he growled.

      The sea of zombies was parting, allowing two individuals to pass through, running at full speed straight towards them, straight towards the wall. David BroomWielder and Oran DeathFlame were coming.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Wizard City was on fire. The Shopping District was a ghost town; the Commons was littered with bodies; Ravenwood was trembling under the might of the dueling Wizards. And yet despite that two brothers stood still, quietly, staring at each other as the rest of the world devolved deeper and deeper into chaos. Neither of them had moved since the fighting started up, and so when Chris drove Chase through the Spiral Door and Krinas bolted after the fleeing Oran and Lenora, the only two people left within Bartelby were Isaac and Allan.

      With the fighting suddenly gone, the great tree was too quiet for Isaac to bare. “Well,” he muttered, “are you going to say something, or what?”

      At first it seemed Allan was content with staying silent. But after a few moments he shook his head, eyes flicking down to the ground. “I thought you were dead.”

      “That would’ve been better,” Isaac spat back. “I was your master’s prisoner for half my life. I’d do anything not to be a pawn in his game.” He couldn’t keep the fire out of his voice, but he also couldn’t stop it from quivering when he shouted, “But you’re doing it willingly! After everything he did to me, you’re still with him!”

      “I didn’t know,” Allan snapped, breaking his stillness to take a step back as if Isaac had just swiped at him. “What was I supposed to think? I saw you die! I wasn’t even ten but I had to see my baby brother’s throat slit-”

      He couldn’t finish. Allan grasped at his own throat and did his best to hide the sob that was building up beneath his trembling hands. Despite the tears in his eyes he didn’t close them, though. He knew he’d see it again if he did. He’d spent his life reliving that moment. He forced that sob down with a gulp and blinked his eyes dry before looking back up at his brother. “What was I supposed to do? Run back to the man who was supposed to protect you?”

      “I don’t know, maybe not side with the guy who tried to kill me in the first place.”

      “But I didn’t-”

      “I don’t care if you didn’t know! Even if you didn’t, and even if you hate our father, how could you stand with the Emperor? He’s a monster!”

      “I know-” Allan stammered.

      “So you don’t agree with him?”

      “I don’t, but-”

      “So why are you with him? Why Allan? Why-”

      “Because he promised me vengeance!” Allan’s roar cut right through Isaac’s questioning and boomed through the empty tree. “And that’s all I have left! So what else am I supposed to do?!”

      Ever since he was broken out of prison Isaac’s heard horror stories about his brother. He heard he was ruthless, heartless killer. A Wizard blessed with power who used it to please his dark desires. Allan StrongFlower was a monster, beyond reason, a hollow shell of a man.

      And maybe those horror stories were true. Maybe, deep down, his brother was a monster. But Isaac didn’t see that. All he saw was a broken boy, who saw tragedy too early and got help too late. A boy whose hurt and hate had been been twisted and manipulated by others to the point where he couldn’t imagine a life without it. Maybe his brother was a monster. But all he saw was his brother.

      “Listen to dad,” Isaac said quietly, “don’t let his mistake control you. We need to stop the Emperor. And then you can figure out what’s left for you after that.” He crouched slightly, and as he did Allan could feel his younger brother’s Magic start crackling to life.

      Allan’s hands shot up, ready to defend himself, brows knotted tightly together. “Don’t try it,” he pleaded. “I’m stronger than you. Don’t make me-”

      “I’m not making you do anything,” Isaac said, staring right into his brother’s eyes. “And neither can the Emperor. I’m going to help the others beat your friends, and then fight your master after that. I hope you’ll join me. But don’t try to stop me.” And Allan didn’t. As Isaac turned and ran out of Bartelby to join the rest of the fighting Allan stood still, staring at his younger brother as he ran off, leaving him alone in the great tree with nothing but his thoughts.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      My brother is losing. With every new swing and clash that becomes more and more obvious. Before, in the Death School, I wouldn’t have stood a chance against him if I didn’t have the Undead to tap into. But now, after expending so much mana to fight me and after I got a boost from Destiny, it’s not close. I know that. And judging by the sinking look on his face, so does he. Good.

      “Is this what you wanted?” I growl, sending him backing up with another swing at his chest. “We’re going to tear the worlds apart. There’s not going to be anything left!” Our swords meet and bounce off against the ground, sparks flying as metal meets the cobblestone of the Ravenwood pathways. “But I guess you didn’t think that far ahead, huh?!”

      He ducks my next swipe and then pushes his palms towards the ground, sending himself rocketing upwards with a gust of wind. He’s careening towards the top of Bartelby, heading straight for the canopy of branches and leaves to hide. Unfortunately for him, I’m faster. By the time he stumbles onto a thicker branch I’m practically on top of him, blasting through the air from my own pillar of Death Magic. I bring my sword down before he can try shooting off again, forcing him to block the blow, and then the one after that, and the one after that, forcing him to take step after step back-

      His backfoot presses up against the trunk of the tree, throwing off his block. I force as much strength and Magic as I can muster into my swing, and with a roar knock the sword out of his hand.

      He never gets a chance to snap an incantation. All he can manage is a wheeze as my gloved hands slam his throat against the tree, squeezing any air out of his windpipe as I raise my sword and stab it right at his Adam’s apple-

      But it stops abruptly, hovering an inch away from his trembling skin. Because I hesitate. As my sword trembles in midair Valdus stops clawing at the hand around his throat. He forces his eyes to peel off the blade that could end his life to focus on me, staring right into my eyes. He doesn’t try to defend himself, or stop me. All my brother does is look at me as his face goes bluer and bluer and my grip on my sword goes tighter and tighter, because he needs to die, one of us nine needs to die, and Gods why can’t I just finish this-

      All of that frustration comes out of me in yell, but as it ends I drop my sword. I give him one last shove into the trunk of Bartelby before I release my hold, allowing him to fall to his knees and take in massive, shaking gulps of air. The two of us stay like that – me standing over him, him on his knees – for a moment. The chaos of war surrounds the two of us, envelops us. The voices of Undead scream at me to avenge them. It’d be so easy to slip into all of it and ignore everything else.

      But I can’t. “It doesn’t need to end this way,” I mutter, sheathing my sword as I do. All Valdus can do for now is breathe, so I keep going. “You know I have to fight our dad. I’ll die if I have to. I know you want us all alive, but that’s not going to happen. So you gotta choose. Me or him. That simple.”

      Only now does Valdus get his breath back. His throat is bruised, and his voice his scratchy, but he still raises his head and wheezes, “Then why not kill me? You won’t stand a chance if you don’t.”

      I wish I could. But I don’t say that. “Because your my brother. And I’m not taking you down unless I-”

      There’s a roar above us so forceful that we both nearly fall off the tree. I brace myself and grab my brother, stabilizing the both of us as something falls from the sky. At first it’s moving too fast to make out, moving so quickly that it must be an asteroid. But it’s too small, and too controlled to be that, almost like it’s-

      Ambrose barely breaks his fall as he smashes into the ground. Blood pouring from scalp, staff broken, robes torn, my Headmaster tries to stand.

      He does. Just in time for the Emperor to fly down and thrust his staff through Ambrose’s chest.
      Last edited by Michael DeathFlame; 8-2-20 at 6:44:53 PM.
      Read The Virus Book 3 The Scroll of Death,the first series to get 100,000 views!

    3. #533
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      Re: The Virus Book 3 The Scroll of Death

      I think it's time to break my habit of just "thank"-ing your chapter updates and actually post just how much I admire your dedication. In a forum full of dead accounts and dead stories and dead memories you still soldier on by churning out some top notch content. There may not be as many people in the forums to give you the rounds of applause you deserve, but I proudly take my hat off to you.

      Even if this book is never finished you have written some fantastic prose and shown a level of commitment I can only dream of.

      Kudos to you, my dude.
      Last edited by Cosmos; 8-4-20 at 11:00:32 PM.
      Yet it cannot be called talent to slay fellow-citizens, to deceive friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such methods may gain empire, but not glory. - Machiavelli // I also write my own stuff ~

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